The District of Muskoka is considering a novel approach when it comes to tackling the ever-increasing problem of homelessness in the region.
During the most recent Community and Planning Services Committee meeting councillors directed staff to investigate the development of a Mobile Outreach Vehicle Program for consideration during the 2024 budget deliberation. The goal of the new program is to provide enhanced access to support services for individuals and families experiencing, or at risk of homelessness.
According to Wade Matthews, the District manager of housing projects, in the post-pandemic landscape, clients require more flexible access to services, due to complex issues, or challenges with transportation. Staff have been looking for alternate solutions to serve clients where they are located, he said in his report.
“To better serve clients with acute needs, staff are proposing to retrofit an end-of-service ambulance to be used by District staff in collaboration with community partners to improve access to services throughout Muskoka,” read Matthews’ report. “With a mobile outreach vehicle, staff and community partners can bring services where they are needed throughout Muskoka in order to address the various needs of those who are experiencing homelessness, or who may be at risk of homelessness. Not only will clients be served in their own community, and with direct access to many supports at the same time, there will be expanded service delivery.”
Matthews says the program will promote cost avoidance, as the expanded service delivery will be able to be implemented without the need to set up or rent static office space in remote areas of Muskoka. Staff are reviewing mobile outreach service and delivery models from across the province and around the world to evaluate learnings and best practices that will inform a made-in-Muskoka program, he said.
Preliminary costing of a mobile outreach vehicle and program is estimated to include a reallocation of an end-of-service ambulance, plus mobile outreach program expenses annually of $10,000, vehicle maintenance fees annually of $8,500, and year-one retrofit fees/vehicle wrapping of $10,000.
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